Covid: Demands for NHS staff to get higher quality masks

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An MSP is demanding assurances that NHS staff in Ayrshire and Arran are equipped with the best possible masks to protect them against Covid-19.

Scottish Labour’s Katy Clark has written to the region’s health board to clarify if workers are being provided with FFP3 masks, as recommended by NHS unions and staff associations.

She says the current PPE guidance has been “rendered outdated” due to evidence that airborne transmission is driving the Omicron variant.

It comes after the British Medical Association (BMA), supported by the Doctors Association UK and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, wrote to hospital trusts in England and described the need to update guidance as a “matter of life and death”.

FFP3 masks are tighter fitting than standard issue coverings and filter up to 99% of airborne particles, the highest of any FFP mask.

Currently, the Scottish Government’s action plan on PPE indicates that FFP3 masks can be used for treatments.

But just 15 per cent of clinicians who responded to a BMA Scotland survey this week said they are regularly provided with FFP3 masks or respirators when working in clinical areas with confirmed or suspected Covid patients.

Ms Clark, who represents the West Scotland region, said: “It’s important that both staff and patients receive clarity on whether these masks are issued and in which circumstances.

“There is a duty to provide a safe working environment for staff who work in clinical environments where they may be coming in contact with Covid but also in venues such as test centres.

“This far into the pandemic we know this virus seems to be airborne, but we are still failing to recognize the steps which therefore need to be taken.

“At the moment many clinical staff don’t even seem to be issued with the lower FFP2 mask which is better than the flimsy masks most people wear, never mind the higher grade FFP3.

“Expert medical professionals have described the need for FFP3 masks to be used by frontline personnel as ‘extremely urgent’ and ‘a matter of life and death’.

“These warnings need to be taken seriously – loose face coverings are not sufficient if we want to protect workers and avoid a further wave of Covid-related absences.”

Dr Crawford McGuffie, medical director at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, told Ayrshire Live: “NHS Ayrshire & Arran follows the NHS Scotland national Infection Prevention and Control guidance, and this includes national guidance on appropriate PPE for our staff for different clinical settings and situations.

“This guidance is kept under regular review by Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infection (ARHAI) Scotland and Public Health Scotland.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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